Three Rangers file for Salary Arbitration: What does it mean?

By now, you’ve heard the news that three Texas Rangers have not yet signed contracts to play next season. That doesn’t mean that they’re completely unsigned, rather, it means that the player and the team have not decided on what the player is worth. The deadline to exchange figures was Friday, January 15th at 4:00 PM CST.

What does it all mean? I’m so glad you asked.

1. What do the numbers mean? The two sides, Player and Team, exchange salary figures. The Player presents what he thinks he’s worth, the Team presents what they think he’s worth. The three Rangers that filed for arbitration are as follows:

  • Shawn Tolleson – RHP – 1st Year Arbitration Eligible
    • The Rangers offered: $2.6 million
    • He wants: $3.9 million
  • Jake Diekman – LHP – 1st Year Arbitration Eligible
    • The Rangers offered: $975,000
    • He wants: $1.55 million
  • Mitch Moreland – 1B/DH/OF – 3rd Year Arbitration Eligible (FINAL)
    • The Rangers offered: $4.675 million
    • He wants: $6 million

2. Why the difference? Don’t worry. This whole process is the business side of baseball. The player has every right to ask for his reasonable maximum value, and the team has every right to try to conserve payroll dollars.

3. What happens now? A date hasn’t been set, but sometime between February 1st and 21st, the Player and Team are scheduled to appear before an independent arbitrator (meaning someone who has no ties to the club or the player) in court and the Player’s salary for 2016 will be determined there.

The arbitrator will compare similar players and similar contracts, meaning relievers will be compared to relievers, first basemen to first basemen, etc. He’ll determine whether the player was less than comparable (likely resulting in the Team winning), comparable (likely resulting in the Team winning), or better than comparable (likely resulting in the Player winning).

UNTIL THAT DATE in February, the two sides can reach an agreement outside of court and avoid the arbitration hearing all together. Agreements are usually right in the middle of the two numbers offered by either side. To put it in perspective, Jon Daniels and company haven’t actually gone before an arbitrator since 2000, when they defeated (meaning, paid the Team’s offered figure) first baseman/outfielder Lee Stevens.

4. What do you think each of those guys is going to get paid? You care what I think? How sweet.

  • Shawn Tolleson: “Tollie” is in his first year of being able to ask for a different salary than league minimum. He definitely proved his worth to the team last season, stepping in and stepping up as the closer after the demotion and departure of Neftali Feliz. He racked up 35 saves in 73 games with a 2.99 ERA, and actually finished 10th in the Cy Young voting. I would expect the two sides to meet somewhere right in the middle; the Rangers won’t want to pay as close to $4 million as Tolleson wants, simply because of the depth they have. Tolleson doesn’t HAVE to be the closer or the go-to guy. The Cy Young votes definitely help Tollie’s case, though. Settles at $3.4 million.
  • Jake Diekman: Known as “the other guy in the Cole Hamels deal,” Diekman proved to be one of the more valuable winning pieces in the Rangers bullpen. Since the arbitrator looks at the season on the whole, his numbers don’t look all that outstanding. In 58.1 innings between the Phillies and Rangers, Diekman compiled a 2-1 record with a 4.01 ERA and 1.440 WHIP. If Diekman had put up his second half numbers over the whole year (2.08 ERA, 0.923 WHIP), he’d probably get closer to the $1.55 million he’s asking for. As it is, I’m predicting he settles at a little over the midway point. Settles at $1.3 million.
  • Mitch Moreland: Ah, here’s the tough case for the Rangers. After years of injury prone, sub-par production, Moreland finally had a career year. He posted career highs in games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, homers, RBI, and slash line (.278/.330/.482). He’s also entering into his final year before free agency, which, by the way, he could enter next off-season as one of the more valuable position players on the market. Comparative to other first baseman around the league, Moreland was a pretty valuable and consistent player with above average defensive skills. I don’t think he gets $6 million (he probably could have asked for more, honestly), but he’ll get a nice chunk before hitting the market. Settles at $5.2 million.

These predictions are my own and based on nothing other than prior players that have filed arbitration numbers over the years and where they settled. Of the three cases, Moreland’s is the one that has the most likelihood of actually going to court. Given Jon Daniels’ history, however, I think they all settle outside of the hearing date.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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